Jo & Laurie
Bestselling authors Margaret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz bring us a romantic retelling of Little Women starring Jo March and her best friend, the boy next door, Theodore "Laurie" Laurence.
1869, Concord, Massachusetts: After the publication of her first novel, Jo March is shocked to discover her book of scribbles has become a bestseller, and her publisher and fans demand a sequel. While pressured into coming up with a story, she goes to New York with her dear friend Laurie for a week of inspiration--museums, operas, and even a once-in-a-lifetime reading by Charles Dickens himself!
But Laurie has romance on his mind, and despite her growing feelings, Jo's desire to remain independent leads her to turn down his heartfelt marriage proposal and sends the poor boy off to college heartbroken. When Laurie returns to Concord with a sophisticated new girlfriend, will Jo finally communicate her true heart's desire or lose the love of her life forever?
De la Cruz and Stohl's affectionate tribute to Louisa May Alcott's work takes place in the year between the 1868 release of Little Women and the 1869 publication of Good Wives, two volumes that are today published as one. At 18, Jo March struggles to produce a sequel after the success of her domestic novel loosely inspired by her family. Buoyed by the novel's success and overwhelmed by demands for a happy ending that is, marriage for the sisters, she toils to find direction on and off the page. Eventually, Jo must balance commercial callings, reality, and fiction as the siblings' real lives (and shifting relationships with Laurie, the steadfast boy next door) overlap and diverge from Jo's imaginings. The authors carefully mimic the setting and dialogue style of Alcott's works, making their care for the characters apparent. Inspired by the original novel's events and further structured around Alcott's history and letters, de la Cruz and Stohl's novel is a playful addition to the world of Little Women, providing readers with a richly imagined look at grief, creativity, and authorship that infuses the beloved characters with new life. Ages 12 up.
Lots of Feelings
I have a lot of mixed emotions about this book. On one hand, I don't believe that the audience should get a say in how a story ends. I believe that we should believe Josephine March when she says she does not want to marry Laurie and that she loves him, not in a romantic way, but as a brother (or, more likely, as a sister). I believe that Louisa May Alcott wrote the book as she wrote it for a reason and that we all should accept that Jo knows her own mind and what would make her happy. Shipping is a complicated thing, and if we truly loves these characters and really just want them to be happy, shouldn't they get to determine their own happiness? And isn't Jo's refusal to be someone she's not what we love the most about her?
The book purports that love is a risk, and that we must be brave and accept it. One might argue, it is also brave, especially for a woman in the 19th century of little means, to turn down a wealthy suitor, or any suitor, and refusing to settle for what is true.
However, any chance I have to revisit these characters and read additional stories of their adventures is a book I must read. And the story was written as such that we can all have our cake and eat it too. So, for that, I am thankful to these women for writing new stories about the March family and writing it in such a way that feels right and true, while also like a fantasy version of a most beloved story. I loved this book like I believe Jo loves Laurie, not quite right, but a dear love all the same.